Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Obsessing Over Church Buildings

Let me start by saying that I am not opposed to "church buildings" (a building owned by the local church to facilitate worship and Bible study). I know there are some who say that church buildings are wrong, especially those in the so-called "house-church movement," but I am NOT one of those people. I firmly believe that church buildings, like song books and pews and collection plates, are authorized generically by means of necessary inference and expediency. So again, there is nothing wrong with autonomous local churches making the decision to own a building in which they assemble for worship and Bible study.

However, I do believe that there are some attitudes among brethren that are indicative of an obsession of church buildings. And this really bothers me.

There are some who act as if, without a church building, the church just can't function. I heard of a congregation that split recently; the larger segment of brethren was still a small group (less than 30) and yet their first obstacle was finding a building to purchase. It was as if they weren't officially a church until they owned their own building. Then there was another scenario where a man contacted me online to seek prayers (and financial assistance) on behalf of his congregation. Why? Because there was some damage to their small building and he was worried that some of the members might leave if they didn't have good facilities in which to assemble. I have spoken to men in the past who have made efforts to establish new churches in remote areas or in areas where there are no faithful congregations, and one of the first steps in that process was securing and purchasing a nice building in which to meet, even if there was only one or two families starting out.

Here's why this bothers me: when you read through the New Testament, you see countless examples of local churches meeting in upper-rooms, in homes, outdoors and in other public places. And yet in the 21st century, it's as if such arrangements aren't good enough. What is wrong with a small congregation meeting in someone's home, or in a library, or in someone's barn? Is it that we're spoiled and have to have all the modern comforts such as AC/heat, padded pews, etc? Or is it pride in competing with all the denominational churches around us? Do we think that without a church building, we're not going to draw visitors from the community? Isn't the "gospel" the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16)?

Listen, I honestly believe that larger congregations (those numbering 50+) might have more reason to own a building. After all, it's difficult to squeeze that many people into someone's house, or even a public place such as a conference room in a library. When a congregation grows and needs a larger area in which to meet and they can afford a building, I think that there is even a degree of prudence in purchasing or constructing a "church building." But small congregations don't need to be going into debt for a church building when they could easily fit into someone's home, or a public place. I'm not saying it's wrong for small congregations to own a building. In my opinion, it's just not a wise expenditure.

Think about it. How much money goes into the church building? There is the mortgage, the electric and water bills, the lawn care, the yearly maintenance, and so on. What ends up happening so often is that most of the money collected in the weekly contribution goes to maintaining the building. Money that could be better spend on supporting an evangelist, or aiding needy saints is instead funneled into a building that isn't necessary in the first place. There are small congregations that cannot afford to hire a preacher because their money is tied up in a building. Among some of these smaller congregations that HAVE preachers, the preacher is asked to seek outside support (from other congregations) because they can't afford to provide full-support...and yet a sizable percentage of their weekly contribution is going towards the maintenance of a building. Churches that could be paying to place articles and ads in the local newspaper and engaging in all kinds of evangelism projects are unable to do so because they feel this need to OWN their own building...when they could easily meet in someone's home.

But listen, it's not just small congregations that are under the microscope here. Larger congregations are often guilty of the same problem. With larger congregations, however, their obsession is not in having a building--they can easily afford the building; their problem is that they want to have an extravagant building. Chandeliers, ornate trim, flowers and fake plants around the pulpit, outrageously expensive sound systems and recording equipment, offices for the preacher and elders, libraries and media rooms, expensive landscaping outside, digital signs and displays, high-arched ceilings and steeples, and the list goes on and on and on. Sometimes I think it's as if some brethren have the mindset of our Catholic friends.

Brethren, don't you think that sometimes we go a little too far? Aren't there better ways to spend the Lord's money? There are preachers out there in need of support. There are Christians in need. There are all kinds of evangelism projects that, with a little financing, could greatly impact the community--CD projects, newsletters, mailers, ads, billboards, flyers, etc.

Again, I'm not saying that it's wrong for a church to own its own building. But I do think that we need to stop obsessing over church buildings. Church buildings are nice to have, but they're not necessary. They are convenient and comfortable, but that doesn't make them a "must-have." And again, we need to stop using our church buildings as a substitute for the gospel of Christ.

Hopefully you can make some sense of this.

End rant.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jesus Didn't Come to Destroy the Law

Jesus says in Matthew 5:17: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” It is assumed that because Jesus didn’t come to “destroy” the old law, it can still be used as a source of law alongside the law of the New Testament. But this is an incorrect interpretation of Matthew 5:17.

The key to understanding this verse is the word “fulfill.” The Greek word is pleroo and it literally means, “satisfy, complete, finish.” In Matthew 5:17, Jesus is basically referring to the Law of Moses as a contract, and He came to satisfy and complete the terms of that contract.

Consider this illustration. When you purchase a car, you are given a contract with terms and conditions. When you make the last payment 60 months later, you fulfill the contract; the terms have been completely satisfied and you are now free from the bond of that contract.

Jesus didn’t come to disregard the terms or conditions of the Old Testament law. Rather, He came to fulfill it, and He did (Luke 24:27, 44). Because He fulfilled the contract in every way, we are no longer bound to it—we can gather valuable principles from it (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11), but it is no longer a valid source of law (Col. 2:14-16).

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Iniquity of Institutionalism

Churches of Christ are not all the same. That’s obvious to anyone who examines them all; there are differences on a number of issues. One thing that divides churches of Christ is the issue of “institutionalism.” As we begin this brief study, it is necessary to first of all define what we’re talking about. Institutionalism is the idea of the local church paying a human institution to do the work of the church, rather then send the money directly to the need. Generally, various local churches will all contribute to the same institution. That institution, whether big or small, will then oversee the dispersion of those funds. There are other errors typically involved with institutionalism, but in this article, we’ll try to stick to the main issue.

The local church is authorized to take up a collection of money (1 Cor. 16:1-2). The money that is collected each Sunday forms what we call a “common fund” or treasury (see Acts 4:34-35 for more on this). As certain needs arise locally or abroad, the church is authorized to draw from that treasury with the intent of meeting those needs. In other words, it is in keeping with the New Testament pattern that local churches send financial relief to meet certain needs that may arise. What are those needs? What are legitimate ways for the church to spend its money? Let’s look at a few things.

First of all, it is obvious that the local church is authorized to send relief to needy saints (NOTE: This gets into one of the other vices often tied to institutionalism, that is, the relief of saint and sinner alike, which the Bible does not authorize.). In Acts 11:28-30, the prophet Agabus came to Antioch and told the brethren there that a famine would occur in the land of Judea. Upon hearing this, the disciples decided to send relief to the “brethren” dwelling in Judea. “This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.” Also, in Romans 15:25-26, Paul writes, “But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem.” In 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, Paul instructed the Corinthians to take up a collection for the saints, and when he came in the future, he would take their donation to the needy saints in Jerusalem (vs. 3). There is more on this in 2 Corinthians 8-9.

Now, we’ve seen the church’s efforts in the realm of benevolence, and we’ve even noticed how the church’s benevolence was limited to needy Christians. But regarding institutionalism, here’s the question: in each case, did the churches send the relief directly to the need, or did they set up institutions (apart from the church) to oversee the dispersion of those funds? The answer is clear. No institutions were set up. The church always had oversight over the dispersion of its own funds. They made the decision and sent the money directly to the need. Where is the authority, then, for churches today to contract out their benevolence to some human institution…to surrender the oversight…the power, the control…to something other than the church?

Another example that we might consider is the support of evangelists. “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14). Preachers and evangelists may be supported, and the church is authorized to provide that support not only for local preachers, but for preachers working in other areas. Notice Philippians 4:15-16: “Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.” Notice once again how the church sent the relief (this time in support of the evangelist Paul) directly to the one who needed it, Paul. There was no “missionary society” or human institution standing between the Thessalonian church and Paul.

These few points are sufficient in pointing out the iniquity of institutionalism. Instead of looking at this as a small matter, we need to have the mindset that we’re going to follow the pattern of the New Testament and do only what we’re authorized to do. Institutionalism isn’t authorized!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Another blog

Hey everyone, I encourage you to check out the blog of a fellow Christian and evangelist. Brother Adam Litmer, who works with the University Heights church of Christ in Lexington, KY has his blog "Captive For Christ" back up and running. Here's the link:



Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Is a Fetus Equivalent to Human Life?

Recently, the American public was outraged when Casey Anthony was found not-guilty for the murder of her daughter, Caylee. Most people believe that Casey Anthony DID kill her daughter and that she should have received the death penalty!

But why is there not similar outrage over the fact that over a million innocent children are slaughtered every year in this country? Yes, I’m talking about abortion.

One of the arguments for abortion is that the baby inside the woman’s womb is actually a “fetus.” The use of this term is meant to desensitize us; the implication is that the fetus is NOT equivalent to human life. Therefore, because it’s not a human, it can be removed like a cancerous tumor from the woman’s body.

God sees things differently, however.

In the Old Testament, the same Hebrew word (yeled) is used in reference to a child inside the womb (Ex. 21:22) and outside the womb (Ex. 2:10). In the New Testament, the Greek word (brephos) referred to the “babe” in Elisabeth’s womb as well as the “babe” Jesus who rested in the manger (Luke 1:41 à Luke 2:12).

Other arguments could be cited, but these few points alone prove that God sees no distinction between the baby before and after birth. The so-called fetus is absolutely equivalent to human life. Therefore, the act of abortion is nothing less than murder.

I agree that Caylee Anthony’s life was precious, and the one who took her life committed murder and is deserving of death. But the act of abortion is just as vile.

Friday, July 8, 2011

"Eli's Quest for Truth"

As some of you know, I've got my own publishing business. While I do offer publishing services to others, the main...thrust of my company is the publication of my own books.

Here's a new book with a spiritual focus that I'm very excited about. It's called "Eli's Quest for Truth." It's a smaller, 5x8 book with just 65 pages or so. It's the story of a young Jewish man named Eli who lives in the hill country of Galilee in 28AD. When asked, "What kind of Jew are you?" Eli sets out on a quest to discover the truth about all the Jewish sects. He encounters the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes, the Herodians, Zealots and even the Samaritans. Along the way, he learns some very important lessons.

The application is made at the end to OUR religious system today. Just as Judaism was divided in the days of old, so also is Christianity divided today. We have all kinds of denominations and the question is often asked, "What kind of Christian are you?" Eli's story illustrates this struggle and the importance of seeking God's way in the midst of so much manmade division and confusion.

This isn't a tract, per se, but does have evangelistic value. It would make a great handout, and can be read in about 30-40 minutes. I'm currently working on an audio book version of this book, and will make it available for the Kindle device soon.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Here's the link for my online book store. You may have to scroll down just a little to see the book. Seriously, this is a book that I'm very, very excited about. Please take a look at it:


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Would You Refuse to Study?

Did you know that the majority of people out there—even religious people—have no real interest in studying the Bible. In most cases, when I ask someone if they would like to sit down and study the Bible, they refuse.

Some people refuse to study, saying that they just don’t have any time to study. I understand that people are busy; we have so many things that demand our time. But are we not told to “seek first the kingdom of God…” (Mt. 6:33)? Despite our busy schedules, most of us find time to watch our favorite TV show; many even spend several hours a night watching TV. Can we not make time to study the Bible?

Others say that they already go to church somewhere, as if home Bible studies are only for the “unchurched.” Folks, we all need to study the Bible (Heb. 5:12-14). Do you think that because you go to church that you don’t need to study, or that you have it all figured out? What if you’re wrong? What if I can help you to better understand the word of God?

Then there are the folks who act interested; they acknowledge that they should study the Bible more and straighten up. They tell me that they’ll get back with me and set up a time for me to come over and study with them. However, almost 100% of the time, I don’t hear back from them.

The Bible tells us what God expects and how to be pleasing to Him (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If you know that your life doesn’t reflect the teachings of God’s word, call me. Let’s study.

But even if you identify yourself as a “Christian,” it’s possible that you’re wrong in your understanding of God’s word. What if you are? Paul says, after all, that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5), and yet there are hundreds of different churches today! Do you know that you have the truth?

Email me at KYBibleQuestions@yahoo.com if you'd like to correspond.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hear & Believe...Believe & Be Baptized

Jesus says in John 5:24, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Based on this verse, it is clear that in order to be saved, we must HEAR the word and BELIEVE it. Both steps are necessary.

But what if I told you that faith is not necessary after all? All you have to do is HEAR the gospel; once you hear, you are saved. What if I made that argument? Wouldn’t you remind me that Jesus says here in John 5:24 that we must hear and believe? And wouldn’t you point out the innumerable verses that teach the necessity of faith? Sure you would!

Well, notice what Mark 16:16 says: “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Do you see how the structure of this verse parallels that of John 5:24? In both verses, two conditions are set forth for salvation. In John 5:24, it was HEAR and BELIEVE. Here in Mark 16:16 it is BELIEVE and BE BAPTIZED.

Here’s the point. If both hearing and believing are necessary based on the clear wording of John 5:24, then both faith and baptism are necessary based on Mark 16:16. If not, why not? Yet so many religious people look at Mark 16:16 and say that baptism really isn’t necessary. “Faith only,” they say. Would they apply this same logic to John 5:24? Of course not, for then faith would be ruled out.

Dear reader, faith is necessary, but so also is baptism. Just read John 3:5; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-8; Galatians 3:27; 1 Peter 3:21. Baptism is not just recommended, it is required! And it’s not just “baptism,” it’s baptism “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).

If you have any questions, or if you want to talk more about the plan of salvation, call me at (859)274-5479 anytime. I’d love to study the Bible with you.